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The Ph.D. in community engagement is a unique social lab designed for working professionals who want to improve their effectiveness as leaders while gaining a broad understanding of public policy, program development, community psychology and best practices in leadership and engagement. 

The community engagement program prepares leaders for outreach and partnership work in civic, business and community organizations. Students in the cohort-model program can expect to complete the coursework in two years, followed by dissertation. The cohort takes courses one night per week, completing two courses per semester.

Pictured is Veronika Panagiotou. Photo | Nick Koehler

Veronika Panagiotou, Ph.D., is the driving force behind Point Park University's Pioneer Pantry, which provides supplemental food free to those in in need.

Program Details

The Ph.D. program is comprised of four blocks of study:

  • Block 1: Community Engagement core (15 credit hours);
  • Block 2: Research and Practicum core (18 credit hours);
  • Block 3: Proseminars/Electives (choose 6 credit hours) and;
  • Block 4: Dissertation core (15 credit hours).

The following options can help you afford your Ph.D.:

Learn more about tuition and fees

* With its already affordable cost, the Ph.D. program is not eligible for tuition discount programs.

What the Ph.D. in community engagement program offers:

  • Gain a broad understanding of public policy, program development, community psychology and best practices in leadership and engagement.
  • Be prepared to conduct research and build partnerships with civic, business and community organizations. 
  • In this unique social lab, engage with communities as part of the coursework.
  • Work with the Luma Institute, using human-centered design thinking for the greater good.
  • Be part of a small student cohort from diverse sectors. 

Upon completion of your Ph.D. in community engagement, you will be able to:

  • Explore sociological, business, communication and environmental factors that contribute to a community’s success.
  • Demonstrate the ability to apply ethical leadership principles to community-based issues.
  • Demonstrate the ability to utilize public policy to bring about social change.
  • Develop and evaluate programs for use in business, government or nonprofit sectors.
  • Explore the psychological and sociological factors that impact communities.
  • Utilize theory and research to guide community change and progress.

In this active doctoral program, work closely with community partners on research and hands-on projects. Examples of the partners and projects our doctoral students have worked with include:


  • Allegheny Conference on Community Development
  • Allegheny County
  • City of Pittsburgh
  • Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank
  • Luma Institute
  • POISE Foundation


Research in Action

Take a look at our three-year program schedule. Courses in the Ph.D. program run year-round and are divided into eight-week sessions. Students will typically take one course each eight weeks, earning you 18 credits per year for a total of 54 credits.

Most courses are offered in the evening, allowing working professionals to balance family, personal and career commitments while finishing all required courses - as well as a dissertation - in three to four years, depending on timing of dissertation work.

Residency Requirements

Residency is met by completing three consecutive semesters of study in the program with a minimum of six hours of course work per semester. Summer, fall and spring semesters are counted toward residency.

Work with Diverse Faculty

Learn from faculty with a range of scholarly expertise and leadership abilities in this interdisciplinary program.

Faculty & staff
Pictured is Heather Starr Fiedler
  • Chair, Department of Community Engagement
  • Professor of multimedia 
  • Director, Wood Street Communications

Video: Virtual Open House

Who Should Apply

Individuals in leadership positions, in particular nonprofit leaders, social change activists and people involved in the national service-learning movement.

Learn More

Tom Higgins, assistant director of graduate admission

Robert Ross, Ph.D., graduate director 

Alumni & student success

Meet Ph.D. in community engagement alumni and students.

More news & features
Pictured is Brittany McDonald, Ph.D. Submitted photo

Executive Director, Uptown Partners of Pittsburgh
"All of my Ph.D. in community engagement and MBA professors were very helpful in my success."

Pictured is Shannon J. Gregg. Submitted photo.

President, Cloud Adoption Solutions
"All of my professors and advisors have been rooted in Point Park's approach to educate the whole learner, and knowing where academics meets practice allows a unique perspective on being strategic AND tactical, doing the right thing at the right time."

News & Features